The Law Society of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Bar Association issued a rare joint statement condemning the “unjustified, derogatory and personal attacks” against the judge who presided over the Mong Kok unrest trials.
The two professional bodies said on Wednesday that they supported the public’s right to express their opinions on judicial decisions, but added that abusive comments had no place in civil society.
“Disparaging and abusive comments on the judge and her family which have nothing whatsoever to do with the correctness of the judgment or the appropriateness of the sentence serve no useful purpose but divert attention away from the real issues which should be addressed in any public discourse,” the statement read.
The statement came after online comments were found insulting Madam Justice Anthea Pang, who was in charge of the trial and sentencing of localist activists such as Edward Leung. Some commenters accused Pang of failing to be objective because her late husband was a police officer.
Pang sentenced activists to prison terms ranging from three and a half years to seven years. The Mong Kok unrest took place over Chinese New Year in 2016 when authorities attempted to clear street hawkers.
In June, the Department of Justice referred the comments to the police, noting that they may constitute contempt of court.
The Law Society and Bar Association echoed the view, stating: “The effect of the comments is to erode public confidence in the judiciary and the due process of the law. They may even constitute contempt of court.”
The organisations urged members of the public to express their views “in a manner conducive to rational debate.”